Pain Relief Beyond Belief





From Blakey to Brown, Como to Costa, Eckstine to Eldridge, Galbraith to Garner, Harris to Hines, Horne to Hyman, Jamal to Jefferson, Kelly to Klook; Mancini to Marmarosa, May to Mitchell, Negri to Nestico, Parlan to Ponder, Reed to Ruther, Strayhorn to Sullivan, Turk to Turrentine, Wade to Williams… the forthcoming publication Treasury of Pittsburgh Jazz Connections by Dr. Nelson Harrison and Dr. Ralph Proctor, Jr. will document the legacy of one of the world’s greatest jazz capitals.


Do you want to know who Dizzy Gillespie  idolized? Did you ever wonder who inspired Kenny Clarke and Art Blakey? Who was the pianist that mentored Monk, Bud Powell, Tad Dameron, Elmo Hope, Sarah Vaughan and Mel Torme? Who was Art Tatum’s idol and Nat Cole’s mentor? What musical quartet pioneered the concept adopted later by the Modern Jazz Quartet? Were you ever curious to know who taught saxophone to Stanley Turrentine or who taught piano to Ahmad Jamal? What community music school trained Robert McFerrin, Sr. for his history-making debut with the Metropolitan Opera? What virtually unknown pianist was a significant influence on young John Coltrane, Shirley Scott, McCoy Tyner, Bobby Timmons and Ray Bryant when he moved to Philadelphia from Pittsburgh in the 1940s?  Would you be surprised to know that Erroll Garner attended classes at the Julliard School of Music in New York and was at the top of his class in writing and arranging proficiency?


Some answers  can be gleaned from the postings on the Pittsburgh Jazz Network.


For almost 100 years the Pittsburgh region has been a metacenter of jazz originality that is second to no other in the history of jazz.  One of the best kept secrets in jazz folklore, the Pittsburgh Jazz Legacy has heretofore remained mythical.  We have dubbed it “the greatest story never told” since it has not been represented in writing before now in such a way as to be accessible to anyone seeking to know more about it.  When it was happening, little did we know how priceless the memories would become when the times were gone.


Today jazz is still king in Pittsburgh, with events, performances and activities happening all the time. The Pittsburgh Jazz Network is dedicated to celebrating and showcasing the places, artists and fans that carry on the legacy of Pittsburgh's jazz heritage.






Duke Ellington is first African-American and the first musician to solo on U.S. circulating coin



       In Her Own Words



For the past couple of years newspaper stories and editorials have commented on the issues facing the August Wilson Center for African American Culture. It has garnered a great deal of conversation among politicians, non-profit professionals, culturists, activists, columnists, museum professionals, and supporters of the AWC. Its financial and operational issues are serious, complicated and revealing.

For all the positive impact it was having on the cultural landscape underneath it all lie a financial storm linked to its initial capital plan to build a $40 million dollar institution.

Some feel that the AWC was too aggressive to achieve such a high budgeted project—that the waters had not been tested in a region that has plenty of entertainment and cultural attractions to compete with. And still yet there are those who feel that the mission of the AWC was not firmly planted and followed to the letter.

The plan to build a $40 million facility to present African American culture was ambitious for a Pittsburgh audience. I don’t pretend that I am aware of the details of its financial profile but understanding that a $7 million shortfall is not an easy task for any institution to overcome, especially one that is new and trying to develop trust and build relationships with a broad community.

The question had to be asked by the organizers if the region would welcome and support a project that aimed for the top and would require significant financial support to maintain.  As we can see the capacity to sustain the AWC is enormous.

As president of the Association of African American Museums I have the opportunity to converse with numerous colleagues about the AWC and other institutions that are suffering some of the same issues. To date the AWC has had five CEO/Directors since it opened its doors in 2009—a four-year period. Anyone in or outside of the cultural non-profit professional can tell you that is an issue. No institution can maintain and grow capacity with that much change at the top in a short period of time.

Generally, it takes at least five years for a CEO to be effective for an established institution let alone a brand new one. That leader would have to put in place their vision and develop relationships with the major players in the region—funders, elected officials, cultural partners, corporations, and the populace.

What we all recognize is the potential asset of the AWC to Pittsburgh’s cultural landscape and would like to see it survive. The reality is that if it does survive a different type of organization may emerge—one that may not appeal so much to the African-American community.

(Samuel W. Black is president, Association of African American Museums. He can be reached at


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Replies to This Discussion

I hAve tried to get in touch with the August Center to do fund raiser shows for free.Lionel Richie,Miles Jay and numerous artists wanted to help the center but no one returned our repeated calls.I knew August and an
The center was too expensive from the beginning,instead of phasing in the construction additions it was done haphazard


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